You Know Why You Didn’t Do It, Don’t You?

You Know Why You Didn’t Do It, Don’t You?

It seems most of what we get evaluated on is what we do but as often as not the critical “x” factors in our success is what we didn’t do. Did we know what we should have or could have done to make a difference? Were we aware there was a must do that we managed not to do, or not on time? So why didn’t you do it? Shall we line up the excuses, or cut to the chase?

In over ten years of performance and strategy consulting I learned a very clear lesson that more often than not people know deep down what to do and the lacking success question to answer is why didn’t you do it. My consulting rebranded under Business Therapy precisely because figuring out why you didn’t do what you know you should was often the success formula more often than them lacking a brilliant strategy for market. As to the reasons given why: you hate doing it, you don’t care, you just don’t want to, you don’t feel you know how, you are afraid of something, your thoughts have successfully talked yourself out of it.

Much of this gets lumped into procrastination and often can be labeled an issue with time management. Sure, that can often be a root cause but what is more common is that things are not done due to a type of thought process that keeps us from doing what is ultimately in our best interest. We call this ACTION RELUCTANCE, but what does that mean?

Reluctance to take an action is primarily about one thing, FEAR. That can take several different shapes. Sales Managers have long battled with salespeople over Call Reluctance. Especially, in the days of cold calling. The fear of rejection or a lack on conviction that you are helping people or doing something that they will see as positive leads us to find reasons not to do it. The primary reasons why so much sales activity has moved to email away from the phone is the ability to feel like you are saying what is supposed to be said without the human confrontation or an immediate rebuke.

Ask a person out there in the dating game how did their last date break up happen and the two most popular responses are either by text or by ghosting. It is far easier to say and do what we want when there are guaranteed positive outcomes otherwise we delay or avoid it entirely. Likewise, read the comment trail on anything of controversy online and you will find what would rarely be spoken to a person who might respond. There is no reluctance because there is no perceived consequence.

Another way Action Reluctance comes into play is when we connect a set of negative thoughts. That may be a direct consequence, like rejection, but often it is something we have imagined or come to believe by some experience. For example, a person decides not to directly confront someone they don’t know with an introduction, and perhaps ultimately a business proposal, because they have convinced themselves they don’t want to be a nuisance. Perhaps they have categorized their action as not likely having value. Is this a case of confidence? It can be, what is confidence other than the belief in a positive outcome or lack of concern for a negative one, but it can also be something else.

Focusing on a potential negative outcome creates a sense of “why bother.” We have an instinct that has us wanting to be liked, or at the very least not wanting to be disliked. Any action that might provoke either response is successfully avoided by not doing what is to be done. “Why should I talk to that person about my business when they probably don’t care and I might be seen as a nuisance?” Good question, why should you?

Actions follow beliefs so the trick to getting so many things done that we are reluctant to do is to replace the negative thoughts with clear positive outcome possibilities or what I label Progressive Potential. The reason to stop and talk to someone you don’t know about your business is that you believe your business provides great value, an important service or would somehow show a positive result for people who buy, or consider, what you have to sell. This is as valid a thought substitution for a product salesperson as it is for a line manager dealing with staff issues or anyone facing reluctance.

What Progressive Potential teaches us comes from quantitative analysis. Sounds complex but imagine you need to have 10 conversations to get one appointment and you need 10 appointments to get one sale. Logic explains you better have 100 conversations and the faster you have them the quicker the sale. If you focus on the 99 conversations with no yield as negative it can seem overwhelming and create reluctance. Instead if you looked at every conversation as one more out of the way getting you your 100th that will yield paydirt then the faster we get to them the better. Each one becomes an important peel getting to the big banana.

Simple fact is as humans we are programmed early on to avoid the negative and pursue the positive. If you can see things you know you should have done but didn’t you owe it to your success to honestly evaluate if your inaction was due to a reluctance. If it was you might be amazed at how fast changes to positive thoughts create a plethora of actions and those positively intended actions are the best recipe for significant success.

©2019 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your ACTION RELUCTANCE or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow Tom @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at His recent book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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